Letter: Proposed increased police powers will only do more harm

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties has serious concerns with respect to the recently announced “wanding” laws set to be introduced in New South Wales.

We understand that these laws would allow New South Wales police officers (of all ranks) to approach members of the public and to subject them to a search (without reasonable suspicion) under the guise that they may be carrying a knife.

We are concerned that the expansion of police powers will result in young people from low socioeconomic regions, particularly those from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities (CALD), First Nations communities and people without fixed address, being subject to increased surveillance, harassment and intervention. It may also lead to an increase in people being charged for drug possession and other public order offences. We do not believe that these laws will have the same impact on communities in more affluent areas of Sydney and will disproportionately impact already vulnerable communities with poor relationships with the police.

These laws do not reflect the policies that the NSW Labor Government promised the public prior to the election, particularly around drug law reform and civil liberties.  With knife crime rates declining, and the penalty already having increased, as one of the first actions of the Minns government after the election last year, there is no reason for further action. Proactive policing does not serve as a deterrent for crime, nor does criminalisation and increased penalties.

The people of New South Wales deserve to have their government invest in evidence based, frontline youth services and community-led initiatives that strike at the heart of crime prevention, mental health illness and are centred on strengthening social cohesion and our civil liberties.

Read our letter to the NSW Attorney General here.

Letter to the Prime Minister: Please meet with your constituents

Dear Prime Minister,

I write in my capacity as the President of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, one of Australia’s leading human rights and civil liberties organisations. The Council is non-political, non-religious and non-sectarian. We are a Non-Government Organisation in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, by resolution 2006/221 (21 July 2006).

I have written to you on two earlier occasions on the issue of Australia’s position with respect to Palestine; including a joint letter issued with Liberty Victoria. To date, I have not received a response to the issues raised in those letters.

On this occasion I write in relation to the peaceful vigil that is being held outside your electorate office regarding the ongoing violence destroying the lives and futures of tens of thousands innocent civilians in Palestine.

We recognise this vigil as a legitimate exercise of democratic freedoms available in Australia. The vigil is noteworthy in that the organisers, their families and attendees are diverse in their religious beliefs and cultural heritage. Importantly, the organisers and many of the protestors live in your electorate – they are your constituents.

We understand that the primary purpose of the participants in the vigil is to achieve an occasion on which they can communicate directly to you, as their electoral representative and as Prime Minister of Australia, their views in relation to the events in Gaza and how they affect people in Australia.

Public confidence in our governmental and political institutions requires elected officials to engage with their constituents, particularly in relation to matters of international significance such as the current events in Palestine which directly affect so many people in Australia.  We strongly believe that an important part of a healthy democracy is constituent access to elected representatives. 

We are concerned that you are yet to meet with participants in the vigil and to give them the opportunity to share their concerns with you personally.

This could understandably be perceived as a breach of your obligations towards them and damaging to public confidence in Australia’s democracy.

We urge you to meet with your constituents and allow them to ventilate their concerns.

The Council remains available to you and your office if you require any further information with respect to the issues raised herein.

Yours faithfully,

Lydia Shelly


Read our letter here.




Letter: The Hon. Michael Daley structural change for domestic and family violence policy

Dear Attorney General

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties joins our community in mourning the intolerable rates of women being murdered in Australia. Eleven women have been murdered in the month of April alone. In 2024, the rate of murdered women has doubled compared to this time last year.

The rising rate of domestic violence has not abated in NSW, even after new laws and tougher penalties were introduced over the past six years. We strongly believe that this scourge cannot be solved by expanding of police powers.  If we are to reduce the occurrence of these types of horrendous crimes, we must ensure that structural failures within our criminal justice system and our communities are appropriately understood, addressed and funded. Without appropriate resourcing and funding, laws are rendered impotent.

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Open letter: Civil Society demands an open review of Anti-Protest Laws

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has joined forces with 40 other advocacy and civil society organisations to send an open letter to Premier Chris Minns MP, demanding that he respect democratic process and conduct a public inquiry in the draconian NSW Anti-Protest Laws. Sign our Petition calling for an open and transarent reivew of these laws here.

To Premier Chris Minns, Attorney General Michael Daley and the Hon. John Graham:

We the undersigned call on you to address the vital issue of protecting the right to protest in our state. The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right that allows us to express our views, shape our societies, and press for social change. In NSW and nationally across Australia, it is under attack.

Two years on from the introduction of the draconian 2022 anti-protest laws, these laws are creating a chilling effect on civil movements and social progress. The barriers for a diverse range of groups to participate in protest action have been raised to an unattainable height due to risk of police interaction and escalated police violence, especially for groups such as First Nations people and individuals on temporary visas.

The review of these laws is scheduled to take place after 1 April 2024 and will be carried out by the Department of Roads and the Attorney-General’s Department. We call for the repeal of these anti-democratic laws - barring repeal, we call on you to ensure that this review will seek public submissions and be undertaken in a clear and transparent manner.

It is essential that members of the community, civil society organisations, legal experts, protesters and protest movements and other stakeholders are given the opportunity to publicly explain the grassroots impacts of these laws. We call on the government to commit to introducing a community consultation component into the statutory review of the 2022 amendments.

We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you regarding the conduct of the legislative review and the opportunity for community consultation on the issue.


Australian Democracy Network Amnesty International Australia  Australian Lawyers for Human Rights
NSW Council for Civil Liberties Human Rights Law Centre Socialist Alliance
Community Legal Centres NSW Inner City Legal Centre City of Sydney for Palestine
Animal Liberation NSW National Justice Project Water for Rivers
Redfern Legal Centre Australia Palestine Advocacy Network Tomorrow Movement
Public Interest Advocacy Centre NSW Young Labor Left Muslim Women Australia
Sydney Knitting Nannas Australia National Imams Council Pride In Protest
Pittwater Knitting Nannas Tzedek Collective Trade Unionists for Palestine
Wage Peace Legal Observers NSW NSW Teachers Federation
Jews Against the Occupation ‘48 Human Rights Act for NSW Jewish Council of Australia
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW Australian Services Union NSW ACT Services Branch Maritime Union of Australia, Sydney Branch
Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union NSW Branch United Workers Union  Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union NSW Branch
Electrical Trades Union Finance Sector Union Hunter Workers
Construction & General Division of CFMEU NSW NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association Tamara Smith, Member for Ballina
Abigail Boyd MLC Amanda Cohn MLC Cate Faehrmann MLC
Sue Higginson MLC Jenny Leong, Member for Newtown Kobi Shetty, Member for Balmain



In April 2022, the NSW Parliament passed legislation to prevent ‘illegal protesting’ on major roads, bridges, tunnels, public transport and infrastructure facilities. The new legislation amends section 144G the Roads Act 1993 which criminalises causing serious disruption by entering, remaining on or trespassing on prescribed major bridges and tunnels, to now include all “main roads”. Offences carry a maximum penalty of $22,000 or two years in gaol, or both.

NSWCCL condemns these legislative changes in totality. Protest should not be confined to back roads.  We especially condemn the lack of proportionality of the punishment that can be imposed for offences committed by protesters. 

The review of these laws is scheduled to take place after 1 April 2024 and should consider the views of all stakelholders and community. Join us in the call for an open and transparent review!


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Open letter: Civil Society joint letter calls on Government to explain poor behaviour

We write as leading civil society organisations, reflecting a broad and diverse membership across Australia, to express our deep concern and disappointment regarding the recent introduction of the Migration Amendment (Removal and Other Measures) Bill 2024.  

We are particularly troubled by the objectives apparently underpinning the legislation, including exclusion of entire nations from migration to Australia, further criminalisation and exposure to imprisonment and detention of people seeking safety in Australia, and circumvention of the impact of a prospective High Court decision regarding unlawful administrative detention.

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Joint letter to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus urging freedom of information reform

Dear Attorney-General,

Freedom of information reform is long overdue.

We write to urge the Government to act on the recommendations made in the recent report of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee’s inquiry into the operation of the Commonwealth Freedom of Information (‘FOI’) laws.

As you will be aware, the Committee unanimously acknowledged the need for urgent reform to the FOI system. The Committee’s report describes a highly dysfunctional, under-resourced FOI regime, citing multi-year delays, excessive use of exemptions, problematic interpretations of FOI laws, prohibitive expenses, and cultural issues within the Australian Public Service (‘APS’) and at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (‘OAIC’).

While in opposition, Labor rightly decried a culture of secrecy and impunity that thrived under the Morrison Government. Now in government, your department has taken positive steps toward remedying this, including establishing the National Anti-Corruption Commission and introducing legislation to establish the new Administrative Review Tribunal.

While we welcome these reforms, we note that the Albanese Government has continued to under-resource and under-prioritise the reform of FOI— a core transparency function, vital for restoring integrity and public trust in government.

The recommendations contained in the Senate Committee’s report represent a comprehensive, actionable blueprint for reform, and an opportunity for the Albanese Government to demonstrate its election commitment to open government and a strong democracy.

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Open letter: Refugees still languishing on PNG - we need answers

We understand that there are approximately 64 refugees remaining in Papua New Guinea, people we put there and have seemingly forgotten. 

We believe that to say that Australia has fully complied with the mutually agreed arrangement to support PNG’s independent management of people remaining in PNG is meaningless if it is not backed up with actual information about the welfare of this group.

Australia has an obligation to the people who remain in PNG. To believe otherwise would be dishonest and a failure of leadership, after all, we sent them there in the first place.

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Open Letter: Seeking clarification on the absurd decision to cancel Palestinian refugee visas

We think the Department of Home Affairs conduct towards the refugees from Palestine who have had their visas cancelled is outrageous. Not only does conduct like this undermine public confidence in the Department, the Government and the entire immigration process, it further punishes a group of traumatised people how have been through the most horrendous imaginable ordeal. We wrote to the Minister to ask why?

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Letter: NSW Policing and the queer community

The Hon. Michael Daley
Attorney General

The Hon. Yasmin Catley
Minister for Police

Commissioner Karen Webb APM

All via webform

Dear Ministers and Commissioner,

RE: NSW Policing and the queer community

We write on behalf of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) to express concern about the alleged murder of a gay couple by a serving NSW Police Officer. This tragic case ought to cause you to pause and consider if the settings around policing in NSW are appropriately calibrated, especially in relation to the queer community. In our view, they are not and your urgent attention is required.

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